Maine: Far From the Madding Crowds
In a world where overcrowded museums, jam-packed beaches and busy outdoor trails and waters seem to be the rule, it’s refreshing to know that Maine still offers experiences and places where crowds and lines are the rare exception and not the rule.
While many visitors head to the coast, there’s so much more of this vast state, which is larger than the other five New England states combined. Maine is a place where you can still wander into an art museum without a timed reservation, find a beach that is blissfully uncrowded and hike a trail or fly fish with wilderness as your only companion.
Here are five experiences that visitors can enjoy without feeling rushed, crowded or scheduled.
Maine is fortunate to have a handful of great art museums scattered around the state, facilities large enough to hold impressive collections yet small enough so you can have an intimate and quiet experience with art. Each of these gems is a destination, but museum-goers can easily link them together in a driving tour.
Starting along the southern coast, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art focuses on the artists of the Ogunquit Colony of a century ago. The Portland Museum of Art is the cultural heart of this vibrant city and has an extensive permanent collection and significant holdings of American, European, and contemporary art, as well as iconic works from Maine.
There’s a lively roster of ongoing exhibitions and the museum oversees the nearby Winslow Homer Studio. Started in 1811, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick is one of the earliest collegiate art collections in the nation and has grown to more than 20,000 objects, including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts, and artefacts from prehistory to the present.
In coastal Rockland, the Farnsworth Art Museum celebrates Maine’s role in American art, with more than 20,000 square feet of gallery space and more than 15,000 works in the collection. The adjacent Wyeth Center features works of Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth and two historic buildings, the Farnsworth Homestead and the Olson House, and Julia’s Gallery for Young Artists, are part of the museum complex. Also in Rockland is a cutting-edge museum, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
Two other gems worth exploring in the state’s interior are the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, with a permanent collection of more than 5,000 works of art, and the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, a collecting and teaching museum dedicated to the preservation, display, and interpretation of the visual arts.
Alternatively, why not Hike Nevada’s Beautiful Trails?
Looking for beaches without the crowds? Birch Point Beach State Park at Owls Head is a locals’ haven with great views of the Muscle Ridge Islands. The beach at Sandy Point Beach Park near the town of Stockton Springs is rarely busy. Wells sees its shares of visitors, but nearby Laudholm Beach has only a fraction of them. Roque Bluffs along Englishman’s Bay is a half-mile strand of sand while Lamoine State Park lies across from busy Mt. Desert Island with room to move and picnic tables in the shade.
To really get away from the crowds, hike to Seawall Beach in Phippsburg or take the mailboat from Stonington to Isle au Haut and hike to remote Barred Harbour.
HIKING, WALKING & MOUNTAIN BIKING
Setting out for a hike this summer? Go to the website of Maine Trail Finder, which has details on hundreds of non-motorized trails throughout the state. This free interactive mapping site aims to help Maine residents and visitors find hiking, walking, and mountain biking trails across the state. They include lesser known reserves, parks and preserves, places you won’t find in any guidebook. Of course, some of these trails are ideal for more casual walks, at a leisurely pace. At their quietest and most peaceful, they can be ideal spots for forest bathing. Another source of untrammeled pathways is the Maine Land Trust Network, a network of more than 75 land trusts that provide public access. It includes more than 1,260 miles of walking and hiking trails, 275 miles of mountain biking trails and more than 200 beaches, perfect for cooling down after a hike in the woods.
While everyone knows Acadia National Park, there are 48 Maine state parks waiting to be explored. They include coastal parks like Cobscook Bay and lakeside parks like Mount Blue and Lily Bay. Glamping arrives at select Maine state parks this summer with Tentrr, which is offering canvas-wall tents with queen-size bunk beds and wood stoves, along with a fire pit, picnic table, benches, Adirondack chairs, and a Coleman sun shower. The first one opened at Bradbury Mountain and others have just opened at Rangeley Lake, Camden Hills, Mount Blue, Lamoine, Peaks-Kenny, and Warren Island.
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Fishermen angling for Maine’s fabled brook trout, landlocked salmon, or large or smallmouth bass have lots of waters to choose from. Those who want to elevate the experience can head to one of Maine’s sporting camps, which typically feature lakeside cabin accommodations and home-cooked family-style meals. Much more than just rustic lodging, Maine sporting camps are part of a century-old tradition that’s still going strong. “Sports” head out for the day, often in the company of a registered Maine guide, by boat, canoe or even floatplane to explore different waters. Check in with the 40-plus members of the Maine Sporting Camp Association, who are scattered across the northern half of the state. They offer some of the best fishing and old-fashioned accommodations in the Northeast.
For more info, go to Visit Maine.